Bell tents (also known as Sibley tents) are one of the most popular and appreciated tent types. In a way, they look similar to old-time Indian tipis. Modern bell shelters are there thanks to Henry Hopkins Sibley, a US Army Officer. Actually, he borrowed and implemented the tipi design from Native Americans, which he observed during service in the mid-1800s and patented in 1856.
These shelters are spacious, tall, and well ventilated. The conical shape enhances air convection inside, and that was why old tribesmen were okay with fires burning right inside. Modern shelters of today come in different sizes, ranging from small-sized camps for two to large glamping marquees with enough space to accommodate a group of 10 persons or an exhibition pavilion.
Why buy a 4-season cotton Sibley tent?
As mentioned above, Sibley shelters are spacious and well ventilated. They provide effective weather protection. Thanks to the aero-dynamic bell-like shape, they won’t bend much in high winds.
They feature heavy-duty water-repellent and flame-retardant (cotton or synthetic) canopies that are impervious to rain, snow, and UV radiation. The conical form and high walls provide a lot of headroom, so you can stand and walk inside even a small-size shelter without stooping.
Many such camps have flue pipe holes (stove jacks). If you are planning a trip on a cold day, you can bring a woodstove (please take fire safety measures!) and heat it up.
What are the weak spots?
High price is their biggest downside. Even a small Sibley camp will cost you a good sum of money.
Most 4-season bell shelters, especially those featuring cotton canvases, are heavyweight. They are not good for hiking or backpacking.
They do not have room dividers, so a Sibley camp is not the best choice in terms of privacy.
Yukon Bell Tent
The 4-season Yukon Bell tent features exceptional weather protection: its canopy is made of a special type of polyester that demonstrates a much higher tear and wear resistance than traditional cotton or polycotton canopies. Besides, it is mold- and mildew-resistant, so it won’t degrade in your lifetime and, most likely, you will be able to pass it over to your children.
The canopy material makes it more lightweight than traditional cotton or polycotton glamping shelters. Therefore, you can go on a backcountry trip with your whole family and enjoy a wonderful weekend away from the city.
The camp comes with a PVC floor, which is attached to the rest of the structure and provides a 100% protection against rainwater. You won’t have to deal with condensation issues because there are four vent holes at the top and four windows in the walls and each one has a layer of mesh. You can keep these closed or open depending on how it feels inside.
The Yukon’s design allows for the use of a wood stove. You can place a stove jack where you prefer and run the flue pipe through the wall or top in a safe and effective fashion. There are high-quality wood stoves available for sale, and they are designed to keep the fire and chars in and prevent fire. With a woodstove, you can keep your shelter warm as your home and feel free to cook. Please take fire and carbon monoxide precautions! Do not let your woodstove burn unattended or when everyone is sleeping!
Unistrength 4-Season Canvas Bell Tent
This 4-season shelter features a waterproof cotton canopy. It is treated with high-quality water repellents, so you will be okay in it even in heavy rain, snow, and wind. All seams are glued properly. Besides, the cotton canvas features UV protection, and it won’t rot or get mildew damage if you store it properly.
The shelter has a flue pipe hole, which is rimmed with a fire-resistant material. It is not imperative that you always use a stove, so you can cover it with cotton. In any event, the feature makes the Unistrength an ideal winter camping shelter. There are several modifications, which differ in size. This product is great for camping, hiking, hunting, mountaineering, and glamping.
There is plenty of space inside, so you can place a small camping bed and a table and walk around with ease. The shelter comes with a PVC floor, which will keep you moist- and critter-free during your trip. A rainfly provides extra protection against rain, so water won’t get inside through the door.
Designed for professional camping, this 4-season shelter requires a bit of experience in setup and takedown. The design is pretty simple, so usually it takes 10 to 15 minutes to put it up. Please take extra care when using a woodstove to prevent fire and carbon monoxide poisoning!
White Duck Regatta Bell Tent
There are three modifications – a four-, six-, and ten-person one in the lineup. It should be noted that even the smaller version offers enough space for a couple or small group to fix a cot, table, and a woodstove, and feel quite okay inside. It accommodates three people easily.
Like most 4-season Sibley camps, the White Duck Regatta comes with two poles – one at the center, and the other at the door. This structure ensures stability in high winds. The canopy is made of an 8.5-ounce water-, UV-, and fire-resistant army duck cotton canvas. The shelter comes with a set of heavy-duty pegs that have sharpened points and are bent to hold the guy ropes.
The canopy has four roof vents and three windows in the walls. Thanks to these and the conical shape, it is always well ventilated. There is a heat-resistant silicon insert in the roof, through which you can run the chimney pipe if you decide to use a woodstove.
The White Duck Regatta weighs some 71 lbs, and many users find it heavyweight. Indeed, it is quite light for a Sibley camp, so experienced elk hunters, mountaineers, and regular campers find it an attractive option. Yes, it is a little pricey, but given the quality and durability, it is really worth the price.
4-Season Premium Outfitter Tent with Stove Jack “Up-5”
It is a quick-setup two-layer 4-season shelter for hunters, fishermen, campers, mountaineers, and everyone else who appreciates a day or two in a quiet and remote place. Although it is not actually a Sibley camp, it does sport some really good traits of a bell-shaped shelter. The Up-5 accommodates up to eight persons in sleeping bags and up to four persons on camp beds.
The canopy consists of two layers of high-quality polyurethane: the outer layer is made of Oxford 300 PU 4000, and the inner layer is made of Oxford 210 PU 2000. The air between the two layers acts as an insulator and keeps the inside cool in summer and warm in winter.
The umbrella-type frame is made of a sturdy AA7075 alloy. It withstands physical impact and temperature fluctuations. You will stay warm inside even when the temperature drops down to -22 °F outside. A woodstove will keep the air inside warm all night long. You won’t have difficulty heating up your shelter, because the company offers user-friendly and safe woodstoves. The canopy comes with a stove jack, which holds the chimney pipe. It is made of a fire-resistant material, so it won’t melt or damage the canopy.
Safety is a number-one thing for RBM. The stove jack is located at a good distance from the wall. The guylines have light-reflective elements that make the shelter visible for drivers from a long distance. The zipper floor secures the inner space against insects and reptiles.
🏕 Why are they called “bell tents”?
They look similar to old tribesmen’s tipis, and they get the name from the conical bell-like appearance. They are also known as “Sibley tents”, named so after Henry Hopkins Sibley, a US Army officer who introduced them.
📦 What are bell tents good for?
Most of these shelters feature cotton canvases treated with water-repellents, UV-repellents, and fire retardants. Canvases are breathable, and that makes them good as 4-season tents. Users say they are good for campers, hunters, fishermen, and glampers.
💡 Do all 4-season Sibley camps use cotton canvas canopies?
There are 4-season Sibley camps that use cotton and/or synthetic (nylon, polyester, etc.) canopies. The former are sturdier and more breathable, while the latter are more lightweight and easier to care for.